The San Jose Sharks Should Replace GM Doug Wilson and Head Coach Todd McLellan
With the end of the season drawing closer and closer, the San Jose Sharks have found themselves in a four-way battle for the Western Conference's final playoff position.
The reigning Pacific Division Champions have definitely pulled an about-face and are fighting and clawing for the final position as they look to win the club's first Stanley Cup.
Over the last few weeks, Sharks fans have been complaining about the players' effort, or lack thereof. I can't tell you how many times I've heard someone blame goaltender Antti Niemi for not seeing the puck, captain Joe Thornton not doing his job in leading his troops, or that Patrick Marleau isn't scoring enough goals.
While these comments may be true to some degree, the bigger problem lies somewhere else.
Upstairs. And the gentleman who are standing behind the bench.
Let's take a look at reasons why General Manager Doug Wilson and head coach Todd McLellan should be fired if the San Jose Sharks don't make the playoffs this season.
Doug Wilson's Failed Experiment
The San Jose Sharks have only had two general managers in their 21-year existence: Dean Lombardi, who is currently running things down in Los Angeles, and the current GM, Doug Wilson.
I can still remember the day I was walking home from school, and had a neighbor come out and ask if I was happy that Dean Lombardi had been fired. The truth was I hadn't known yet, but when I was informed, I couldn't have been happier. Sure, Lombardi had essentially laid the framework for the organization I grew up idolizing, but his time had run out.
Nothing made me happier when I learned who the new general manager was going to be. Doug Wilson was an old coach of mine when I was younger, and someone I still maintain a relationship with to this day.
But in my educated opinion of the game of hockey, his card has been punched one too many times. The Sharks have had some dominant years under Wilson. Making the playoffs seven times, advancing to the second round six times, and the third round three times.
Nine players have also been let go after two consecutive Western Conference Finals appearances. Traditionally, when something isn't broken, you don't fix it. The Sharks' exit from the conference finals didn't require an entire roster revamp, but that's essentially what happened.
During the Wilson tenure, Sharks fans have never seen a day of hockey in June. And as a lifelong fan and season ticket holder, that's the only thing we've been waiting for.
The list of available talent for the GM position in the NHL isn't very vast, but it would be an appropriate time for the executive committee to start shopping offers.
The Fall of Todd McLellan
No one has been a bigger fan of Todd McLellan than me since his arrival in 2008.
I had all the buy-in the day he was announced as the new head coach. The golden boy coming from Detroit, he was a man who already had hardware and worked in the prestigious confines of Joe Louis Arena, and had coached the likes of Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Nicklas Lidstrom.
And he did not disappoint. In his first season, he led the Sharks to a franchise record 117 points, their first ever Presidents' Trophy, and landed himself as a finalist for the Jack Adams Award, awarded to the NHL's best coach, at the end of the season.
Of course, in the postseason, the Sharks fell to the Anaheim Ducks in the first round.
McLellan has continued to collect milestones for the club as head coach. He has become just the third NHL coach in history to record consecutive 50-win seasons in his first two seasons, and led the Sharks to the last two NHL Western Conference Finals as already mentioned.
But why can't the Sharks make to it the ultimate level? Why can't the Sharks play with consistency? Why can't the Sharks win all the games they need too?
The Entire Coaching Staff Needs Wholesale Improvement
The Sharks have had consistency issues with their special teams units for years. Since McLellan's arrival, the Sharks had the privilege of seeing more success than we're used to, but the inconsistency is still apparent.
I first noticed there might be an issue with the Sharks coaching while McLellan was absent last month due to suffering a concussion after being struck in the head with a flying stick.
While McLellan was day-to-day with his symptoms, the assistant coaches were charged with running the team. And with all due respect, they ran the Sharks into the current predicament that they are in. The Sharks performance and play during McLellan's absence showed just how little control and ability the coaching staff as a whole really has.
The assistant coaches of any team usually are in charge of running special teams, work along on the boards and consistency in the face-off circle. Outside of the Sharks' second best face-off percentage, the rest of those elements in their game are hardly pleasing.
Trent Yawney, who was an assistant coach in the earlier years of the McLellan regime, left last season for a head coaching position with the Peoria Rivermen of the AHL. One assistant coach missing couldn't create this much backlash in a teams overall performance.
On paper, the Sharks are one of, if not, the most talented team in the NHL. But, it seems the current coaching staff doesn't have the ability to take the Sharks to the next level.
It's time for McLellan and his assistant coaches to go.
Head Coach Replacements: Bob Hartley
There are several coaches who were considered geniuses, or that have led their teams to respective championships, but have completely fallen off the radar.
Take ex-Avalanche coach Bob Hartley, who led Colorado to a Stanley Cup in 2001. Hartley is currently coaching in Europe.
Sharks fans are more than familiar with Hartley, as he coached the Avalanche past San Jose in the 1999 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
And Hartley has his own accolades to match McLellan's. His 193 victories behind the Colorado bench are a franchise record, and his is the only coach in the history of the club to have 40 plus wins in each of his first four seasons as a coach.
Michel Therrien might be a name that most Sharks fans are unfamiliar with, or even more, a name that hockey fans have forgotten about.
Therrien is currently a scout for the Minnesota Wild, but is known for coaching the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2008. He also had a tenure with the Montreal Canadiens in which he posted a respectable 77-77-37 record all-time.
Therrien spends most of his days preparing scouting reports for a team that won't win a Stanley Cup in the next decade, and the remainder of his free time is spent skating at Montreal's Bell Centre.
It's safe to compare the talent level of the Penguins roster to what the Sharks have currently, and if given the chance, Therrien might possibly have the methods to push the Sharks to the next level.
Negative Locker Room Culture
The Sharks players have never really been one to point the finger at one another. Whether it's the negative commentary of Jeremy Roenick, or the fact that the Sharks are simply just not performing up to their ability, the culture in the locker room is poor.
I have get to go into the locker room and have developed a rapport with the players, and the negative locker room culture is obvious.
It became more obvious when captain Joe Thornton started pointing the finger in the public eye of the press. Thornton is not the type of player to ever blame someone or something else for his team's struggles.
The culture in the locker room has become corrupted, and that, more than anything else, is the reason the Sharks needs a total front office shakedown. They don't need to trade more goal scorers, and they don't need to sign another veteran defenseman.
They need a new general manager and a new head coach.